Scots Push World Champions To The Limit

The last time South Africa came to Murrayfield it was for a World Cup warm up match in the summer of 2007. South Africa went on to become world champions but Scotland showed today that there was not a world of difference between the two sides. The final score of 14-10 to the South Africans highlighted what a close game it was and Scotland certainly had chances to post what would have been a famous victory. A try from Nathan Hines sent Scotland into a first half lead but the deficit was over-turned in the second half and South Africa held off the Scots to win by a narrow margin.

The last time South Africa came to Murrayfield it was for a World Cup warm up match in the summer of 2007. South Africa went on to become world champions but Scotland showed today that there was not a world of difference between the two sides. The final score of 14-10 to the South Africans highlighted what a close game it was and Scotland certainly had chances to post what would have been a famous victory.

A try from Nathan Hines sent Scotland into a first half lead but the deficit was over-turned in the second half and South Africa held off the Scots to win by a narrow margin.

Scotland Coach Frank Hadden was proud of his players but understandably could not disguise the hurt at another oh so agonising reverse. He said: "You certainly can't fault the desire and commitment. I still believe that we have the quality of squad so that we can progress. I can't speak highly enough of the work rate behind the scenes."

Hadden however acknowledged that Scotland's third quarter, where they conceded five penalties/free-kicks in succession had helped to turn the momentum of the game, while their inability to score in the last ten minutes allowed the Springboks to escape with a fortunate win.

The match started in a cagey fashion with neither side able to dominate. Both defences stood up to the test as the contest became a torrid battle with Paterson and Godman being forced to leave the field within the first ten minutes.

Scotland's intensity was high and the frantic work rate of the forwards was gradually giving the home side the upper hand. Scotland enjoyed a good spell of possession but were unable to break through the fierce South African defence spearheaded by flanker Schalk Berger.

Follwing ill-discipline from the Springboks defence, Scotland were awarded a series of penalties. To the dismay of the home crowd, replacement Parks was unable to convert two attempts. However, his opposite number Ruan Pienaar was also having trouble with the boot failing with his first attempt.

In spite of the wayward efforts at goal in the swirling wind, Scotland were very much in the ascendancy. Lamont and Southwell's endeavours created a strong platform for Scotland in the visitors' half. The heavily bandaged Godman returned to the fray and immediately put Scotland ahead with a penalty in the 27th minute.

Scotland were playing well and dominating possession and territory. The forwards were winning plenty of ball especially at set pieces and the backs were showing a willingness to run with the ball in hand.

With half-time approaching Blair spotted a gap and darted through. Godman took it on and was clawed down frustratingly short. The ball was kept close and a series of drives brought Scotland to within inches of the line. The patience and samina-sapping effort was duly rewarded as lock Nathan Hines powered over the line for Scotland's first try at Murrayfield this year. Godman converted and Scotland led the world champions 10-0 at the break.

The South Africans are not one of the best sides in the World for nothing though and they started the second half in lively fashion. A great break from Jean de Villiers had him stretching for the line but a heroic effort from Blair and Southwell was able to put him into touch metres short. However South Africa were soon able to register their first points when Scotland were caught offside at the breakdown. Putting his earlier miss aside, Pienaar slotted the kick from in front of the posts. 10 - 3 Scotland.

Scotland were still competing well and when the ball was moved wide to danger man Bryan Habana Scotland hooker Ross Ford was on hand to put in a strong tackle and stop the Springbok flyer. The South African winger departed soon after having not been able to make his usual impact against a determined Scotland defence.

South Africa were still pressing though and in the 53rd minute Scotland failed to roll away from a tackle and South Africa had another shot at goal. Pienaar again did the honours. 10 - 6.

It was a hard fought match throughout and the commitment of both sides was being demonstrated at regular points. The Murray man of the match, Scotland prop Euan Murray, got the crowd on their feet with a terrific tackle in the centre of the field, driving his opponents back and forcing the South Africans to give away a penalty for coming in the side of the subsequent breakdown. Scotland failed to take advantage of the possession though and surrendered the ball to South Africa.

A series of quick phases allowed them to advance and when the ball was spun out wide replacement Jaque Fourie was able to cross in the corner. From the touchline Pienaar missed the conversion but after nearly an hour of play South Africa had taken the lead 11 - 10.

Scotland almost struck straight back with a penalty from Godman, unfortunately he missed and with the score line so close Scotland's three missed penalties were looking costly. Especially when with fifteen minutes remaining Pienaar added another three points from a penalty. This time Scotland being penalised for coming in form the side. 14 - 10 to South Africa.

Scotland had soaked up a lot of pressure in the second half and it looked like the world champions might try and step it up and close the game out. Instead it was Scotland who moved up a gear and started to play with an added verve. With ten minutes left Scotland went all out for the score that would win it for them. Unfortunately despite some good breaks, quick thinking and creative play Scotland were unable to get those vital points.

It was another frustrating match for Scotland following last week's defeat to the All Blacks but with a strong first half performance and a competitive edge to the match for the whole 80 minutes Scotland certainly gave the world champions a real match and will be wondering what could have been.

Scotland

Chris Paterson (Edinburgh); Thom Evans (Glasgow Warriors), Ben Cairns (Edinburgh), Nick De Luca (Edinburgh), Rory Lamont (Sale Sharks); Phil Godman (Edinburgh), Mike Blair (Edinburgh) CAPTAIN; Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh), Ross Ford (Edinburgh), Euan Murray (Northampton Saints), Nathan Hines (Perpignan), Jim Hamilton (Edinburgh), Jason White (Sale Sharks), Allister Hogg (Edinburgh), John Barclay (Glasgow)

Substitutes

Dougie Hall (Glasgow Warriors), Alasdair Dickinson (Gloucester), Matt Mustchin (Edinburgh), Scott Gray (Northampton) Rory Lawson (Gloucester), Dan Parks (Glasgow Warriors), Hugo Southwell (Edinburgh)

South Africa

Conrad Jantjes; JP Pietersen, Adi Jacobs, Jean De Villiers, Bryan Habana; Ruan Pienaar, Ricky Januarie; Tendi Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, John Smit CAPTAIN, Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Schalk Berger, Juan Smith, Pierre Spies

Substitutes

Brian Mujati, Gurthro Steenkamp, Andries Bekker, Ryan Kankowski, Danie Roussouw, Frans Steyn, Jaque Fourie

Referee: Dave Pearson (England)

Crowd: 36,037

Murray Man of the Match: Euan Murray (Scotland)